Rutledge is a Peachtree Presbyterian Church institution. High schoolers at Peachtree have been roughing it at Rutledge for 70 years.
When I got there I texted my wife and said, “This looks like a movie set. They could have filmed Friday the 13th here.” Then later someone told me that they filmed the original Friday the 13th here. It was rustic when the movie came out. It is ruggedly rustic now. Rugged, Rustic Rutledge.
As the sun set we had Vespers. For you low-church listeners out there, that’s a worship service. As I sang and listened to the speaker, a thought occurred to me: These are authentic kids, living a real adolescent life in which faith is an important part.
That doesn’t sound like much of a thought. Let me explain.
A lot of churches don’t know what to do with culture, so they fall into one of two equally bad groups. One group is concessionist and acknowledges cultural shifts through acquiescence. Oh, we believe that now? Okay, sure. The second group argues against these concessions, not wanting to throw away core beliefs, but grows weary of losing ground and eventually retreats to a cloistered Christian subculture. Each group loses their kids – one by removing the Gospel and the other by removing the world.
The story of Jesus is a story of God entering into the world for the sake of saving the world. Without ceasing to be God, God became human. As believers we hold our Jesus to be fully divine and yet fully human at the same time. That’s hard to do. Most churches want to remove the divine or remove the human.
Each is tragic.
I don’t want to raise my kids in a church that rips off pieces of belief like roof shingles to give a homeless person. I also don’t want to raise my kids in a church that pretends as if there isn’t anyone in need. The incarnate God wants us to be incarnate in the world, to welcome those in our communities that are watching us. It is through our hospitality to these strangers that we show others what it means to be a Jesus follower. We are called to help others build spiritual foundations. That begins in the dirt.
So as I sat out at Rugged Rustic Rutledge tonight, I thought, these are authentic kids, living a real adolescent life in which faith is an important part. The call of following Jesus is clear, but they aren’t being made to disengage from the world in order to do it.
Churches that remove the human don’t have to worry about culture anymore and churches that remove the divine don’t have to worry about Jesus anymore. In either setting, the critical work of church communication becomes less important: the former because quality becomes less of a value and the latter because theological integrity isn’t a concern.
So this morning I wake up thankful that Peachtree is both rare and a jewel for a church communicator.